The Chess Variant Pages



Chess Morality IX: Sacrifice

This painting of a Hawk is truly rare!
From its pale silk issues a frosty breath.
Does he foresee a fleeing Rabbit's death?
Why has he a vexed Barbarian's stare?
Surely we should unloose his Ring and Chain!
Now as we call him, he must hear our words!
When are you to strike those twittering birds,
Scattering blood and feathers on the plain?
                    --Tu Fu, 'Painting of a Falcon'
Some Barbarian is waving my shield, a peerless Piece
Of equipment I left behind under a bush.
But I got away alive, so what does it matter?
Let the shield go! Plague take it! I will find me
Another one hereafter -- and just as good to me!
                    --Archilochus, 7th century B.C.
The Queens exulting near their consorts stand;
Each bears a deadly Falchion in her hand...
Fierce as they seem, some bold Plebeian spear
May pierce the shield or stop their full career.
                    --William Jones, 'Caissa'

Falcon: The seventh's piece's fulfilling classic links:
My sound-alike in Queen's sword, a 'Falchion,'
Our standard in the feature of a Sphinx
With Falcon head and body of lion,
An echo of the ancient poetry
The breaking of a higher symmetry.

Pawn: Pawn and Piece -- once moved fully six spaces
The one promotes to other -- fitting pair!
Yet 'plebeian' move never retraces,
So Pawn's not called a 'piece.'  It's splitting hair,
Like which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Or what misfits, the round hole or square peg?

Knight: When Falcons chant, Hawks scream and Soldiers shout,
It's the nature of their evolution.
Only the Horse's move has no fixed route,
Like infinite series' finite solution.
For space or time, a piece may pay the price
In Equine or avian sacrifice.

Bishop: As circling vultures sense the Game is dead
(No jokers wild, no tricks up Caissa's sleeve)
And Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
Free thinkers worship the new Rules they weave.
As many minds, so many fantasies
Chess variants beset with fallacies.

King: As for those drinking mead from the skull-cup
And players beating the serpent-skin drum,
Suppose the Sun's chariot's reins pull up?
Or that the Bird of Jove's auspices come?
With six-piece chess books in ritual pyre,
Who would set the burnt offering on fire?

Queen: Votive offering and the libations
To the Muses revealing crucial signs!
Seven chess piece moves' exact equations
Derive from checker'd board and radial lines,
As an enzyme fits its site like key to lock
Or like the inner workings of a clock.

Rook: When the time comes to declare 'Game Over,'
(E'en as Rook caws, parrot talks, raven croaks)
Piece and player submit to the same Mover.
The shifting canvas completes the last strokes.
In some measure, Chess itself may suffice
As well within the human Sacrifice.            

George William Duke 2002


Written by George William Duke.
WWW page created: December 30th, 2002.